Feasting on Crayfish

August in Scandinavia means crayfish parties, traditionally held outdoors as an end-of -summer ritual. But not everyone is so enamored of these small crustaceans.

Growing up as a kid in the midwest, I knew of “crawdads” or “mudbugs” only as fish bait. Certainly nobody ate them – ugh! At our cabin in Canada crayfish are the preferred food of mink, who scatter remains on our dock after an evening’s dining.

In Texas and Louisiana crayfish boils are a popular social event. Farm-raised in large commercial operations, gunny sacks full of live crayfish are dumped into huge pots of highly seasoned boiling water in which potatoes and corn-on-the-cob have already been cooked. The resulting spicy platters will bring tears to your eyes (literally) and the need to reach for a cold mug of beer.

Things are done differently in Scandinavia. They catch crayfish at night in chicken wire traps with funnel-shaped openings – very clever! A more restrained mix of seasonings is used in the cooking – water seasoned with only salt, sugar and quantities of dill. The crayfish are served with bread and butter, washed down with vodka, aquavit or beer.

The Swedes are famous for their crayfish parties, though the Finns are not far behind in their passion for this delicacy. No matter where you are, eating crayfish is a messy business requiring hands-on attentiion. You must twist off the head, split open the shell and suck out the meat! Fortunately the results are worth the effort. Short of eating lobster, nothing else measures up to these little gifts of summer – a delicious treat. Enjoy them while you can. I’m even including them in the second book of my Women of Beowulf series.

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